The Angst and Glory of a Kitchen Renovation
A bit more than a year ago, my husband and I completed the renovation of our kitchen. I’ve had a year of preparing meals, entertaining, hanging out, and caring for this new space. So what do I like and dislike about kitchen? What could I never live without and what would I do differently? To help those now involved with or contemplating a kitchen makeover, I offer these friendly words of advice—won through 9 months of breathing plaster dust, washing dishes in the bathtub, and agonizing over tile colors.
First of all, don’t try to do this by yourself. Work with an architect, kitchen designer or interior designer, and builder who you are in tune with you. These projects demand so many decisions—from where to place electric sockets to how many BTUs you want in a cooktop—that you’ll want to foist some of these questions onto someone else. Yes, you pay for these pros, but I promise they will come up with innovative solutions that make better use of your space—and your money. Also, when you are slow to make decisions or are continually changing your mind, a project will take longer and cost more.
We hired a wonderful architect who came up with the inspired idea of moving our basement stairs, which allowed us to expand our kitchen’s square footage without altering the footprint. (The stairs originally ran behind one of the kitchen walls and they were moved under a stairway to our second level.) This shift would never have occurred to me, yet it made a world of difference in the total design and was relatively easy to execute.
The architect also added a 10x12-foot mudroom/pantry and back entry next to the kitchen, giving us more storage space and an out-of-the way place to feed the cats. (How many times did we kick the cat’s bowl when we were trying to fix dinner in the old kitchen?)
The kitchen designer was a gem who provided cabinet and drawer space for all my everyday dishes, good china, pots and pans, and serving pieces. I absolutely love the pull-out trays in the cabinets that make accessing dishes so easy. And my husband adores the new “bar cabinet” in the mudroom. Floor-to-ceiling pantry cupboards in the room are equipped with pull-out tray shelves where we keep bar glasses and liquor bottles. Make sure the pull-out shelves and hardware are heavy duty so they can support all those heavy items, such as food processors, stand mixers, and other countertop appliances.
Other favorite features: 1) The farmhouse sink in the mudroom, where I can water plants and soak messy barbecue racks. 2) The central vacuum’s “vac pan” in baseboard next to the range. (With a kick of my toe, I open a powerful vent that sucks away crumbs and debris.) 3) A chest-style island where I store pots and pans in drawers and have a central workspace close to my range, refrigerator, and sink. 4) Refrigerator, dishwasher and pull-out trash inconspicuously concealed behind cabinet panels so they are integrated into the room’s design.
Would I do anything differently? Nothing major. I might add task lights (either a pendent or a couple of sconces) for the main sink area. There are plenty of recessed lights in the ceiling but the one over the sink tends to illuminate my head, not what I’m doing with my hands. I’ve thought a frosted glass pocket door between the kitchen and dining room might be nice to conceal the kitchen when entertaining. If we’d had the budget, I would have loved to add in-floor heating in the mudroom, where the tile is chilly underfoot. (The kitchen floor is hardwood, which I love.)
Other words of advice: Plan on spending 25 to 30 percent more than you originally budgeted. Plan on the project taking twice as long as predicted. But remember, it will be worth it. (“It will be worth it,” will be your mantra. Recite it over and over when you’re on your knees washing dishes in the bathtub.) A new kitchen is a great investment. It dramatically ups the value of your home and will make it sell quickly when the time comes. But most of all, it makes every day so much more pleasant.